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The Heart of the Matter in Education Reform

Education reform in the United States has become noisy. Proposed curriculum changes, school choice, vouchers, mandates, the list goes on and on; why does education reform really matter? We see the news headlines over viral videos of parents screaming at school board meetings, leading to name-calling and blame-shifting. It seems a rather powerful subject; emotional, tense, unruly at times. Yet, substance has been drowned out, as it would appear that attention has been drawn away from why education reform matters. Perhaps a step in the right direction lies in redirecting the conversation towards the who of education, emphasizing the dearness in the gift of children.

The value of children has varied across societies and cultures, evolving over time—from once being viewed as a mere source of labor to lords of the home-life to trumping the institution of marriage in certain sects, attitudes and expectations of children have shifted. Varying analyses have, historically, inquired into the value placed on children’s lives. Specifically, in 1973, two researchers developed an empirical research study to look at the different aspects of value that parents find in their children, with a large consensus base. They arrived at the following nine categories: (1) Adult status and social identity, (2) Expansion of the self, ties to a larger entity, immortality, (3) Morality: religion, altruism, good of the group; norms regarding sexuality, action on impulse, virtue, (4) Primary group ties, affection, (5) Stimulation, novelty, fun, (6) Achievement, competence, creativity, (7) Power, influence, effectiveness, (8) Social comparison, competition, (9) Economic utility. As with other fallible and wavering justifications, these valuations of human life—more specifically of children—are subject to changes. As norms shift, so too does the extent to which those nine factors are evaluated. The ones potentially left to suffer the consequences are the most vulnerable; in this case, children. Carried over to education, a perspective that finds value in children or students based on their economic burden/ gain, benchmark accomplishments, or social status alone fails to consider the needs of a child. And while those elements are important and should be considered at the macro-level (after all, society must function, children become working adults, and the economy must continue its cycle), perhaps we need something more holistic and personal. For Christians, the value of children can be found in their inherent worth.

From a Biblical perspective, and with the Word of God as the source of Truth, no life is of more value than another. No gender more than another. No age more than another. No appearance more than another. Undeniably, the value placed on life is not dependent on how we feel, what the newest social precept says, or what any government says. God took the time to know children before they entered the world, pointing to the inherent value of beings created in the image of God, why don’t we follow suit? For this, when getting to the heart of why education reform matters, may we look at Scripture for guidance and see the gift that is knowing children.

Consider the following interaction concerning Jesus and the topic of children, recorded in the book of Mark: “And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them” (Mark 10:13-16). Notice the righteous indignation with which Jesus responds. He is appalled at the unfair and unjust treatment displayed by His disciples. Jesus seeks to spend time with children and sees the preciousness in their demeanors, their vulnerability, and their need for guidance. Moreover, He proposes that all have something to glean from children in their plain faith and willingness to receive a gift (like salvation) as opposed to something earned.

The Bible instructs that we are to protect and defend children and also gives insight into what it looks like to train up and teach children—to discipline and correct, to nurture and comfort, to treasure and raise in faith. The characterization of children perceivable in the Bible is one of deep fondness and sincerity. There is a “belovedness” in the ways that Scripture relates the value of children: a heritage from the Lord, a reward—immeasurable worth, unfathomably loved. And it is this very same perspective that Christians must bring to the table of conversation about education reform.

Regardless of policy preference or ideological leaning, the heart of the matter must be rekindled and illuminated. Protecting children ought to be about defending their capacity for learning and trailblazing. It must be a fight for their potential and need of guidance, and, from the Christian’s perspective, their God-given creativity. Therefore, aside from the noise and politics of education reform, it is important to consider and remember the why. Instead of getting lost in the chaos and division, may our prayer be that God would awaken our eyes to the glorious gift and opportunity it is to behold and know children.